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Atlantis: The Final Mission• CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Atlantis and four astronauts thundered into orbit, July 8, 2011 on NASAs last space shuttle voyage, writing the final chapter in a 30- year story of dazzling triumphs, shattering tragedy and, ultimately, unfulfilled expectations. After days of gloomy forecasts full of rain and heavy cloud cover, the spaceship lifted off at 11:29 a.m. -- just 2 minutes late -- and embarked on the 135th shuttle mission. The crowd of spectators was estimated at nearly 1 million.• When Atlantis touched down July 21,2011 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the high-flying era of the space shuttles came down to earth as well. After 30 years, the shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with Colombia, has ended with the 135th mission. Atlantis delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station, and retrieved a failed pump unit and other items for the return trip. Atlantis went aloft 33 times, logging over 125 million miles. The last shuttle will become a museum exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center. (Click to skip page)
July 8, 2011 The space shuttle Atlantis astronauts left to right, mission specialists Rex Walheim, Sandra Magnus, pilot Doug Hurley and commander Chris Ferguson.
July 8, 2011Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.The STS135 mission, the final shuttle flight, will bring supplies to the international space station.
Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson (left) and Pilot Doug Hurley.
Astronaut Rex Walheim works on the mid-deck of Atlantis.
Astronaut Ron Garan checks out his pistol grip tool in the International SpaceStations Quest airlock prior to his July 12 spacewalk on July 12, 2011.
July 12, 2011 The International Space Station and Atlantis (right) orbit Earth.
July 12, 2011Spacewalker Ron Garan rides on the International Space Stations robotic arm with Earth below ashe transfers a failed pump module to the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis during the finalspacewalk.
Atlantis and International Space Station astronauts gather for one of the final meals sharedbetween shuttle and station crews aboard the orbiting laboratory on July 14, 2011.
Astronaut Sandy Magnus gets one last visit to the Cupola on board the International Space Stationbefore the two spacecraft undocked on July 18, 2011.
Astronaut Ronald Garan leaves the Quest airlock on the International Space Station.
Astronaut Mike Fossum carries a Robotics Refueling Mission payload from Atlantis cargo bayto a platform used by the space stations famous robot DEXTRE.
July 21, 2011Atlantis lands on July 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ending its 13-day mission.
July 21, 2011The drag chute is deployed as the space shuttle Atlantis lands at the Kennedy Space Center inFlorida, completing STS-135, the final mission of the NASA shuttle program.
July 21, 2011Space shuttle Atlantis is towed to the Orbitor Processing facility for decommissioning at theKennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
July 21, 2011Commander Chris Ferguson walks under Atlantis after landing at the Kennedy Space Centerat Cape Canaveral, Fla.
July 21, 2011Atlantis is towed into its hangar at the Orbiter Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center inFlorida after it landed several hours earlier, ending its 13-day mission and final flight for thespace shuttle program.